Sumilao farmers mark 6th anniversary of epic walk to Manila

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News/09 October)  The Sumilao farmers now organized as the Panaw Sumilao Multi-purpose Cooperative is celebrating the 6th anniversary of their 1,700-kilometer “walk for land, walk for justice” to Manila.

The celebration will be opened Thursday with a ritual and thanksgiving in Sitio Fatima, San Vicente, Sumilao, Bukidnon. On Friday, they have organized a farm tour of the 147 hectares distributed to them.

Napoleon Merida, coop chair, told Bukidnon News they have started to reap the fruits of their labor. He said they have observed improved quality of life among their members with some now able to send children to school.

“We have focused our time and energy on our crafts in farming,” he added.

The Sumilao farmers hogged the headlines in 2007 when they marched from this town to Manila to press their claim on the land under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

The farmers planned to use the 50-hectare area in San Vicente into family-operated organic farms using natural farming technology. The 97 hectares, located in other villages of Sumilao, will be used for industrial crops.

In 2011, Merida announced during the 4th anniversary commemoration held in a warehouse they built using government funds that the farmers have already planted corn and cassava in 41 hectares of the 50-hectare area initially turned over as part of the 147-hectare land eventually awarded to them. Their claim had only covered 144 hectares.

The 6th anniversary celebration will highlight the updates from the cooperative on October 12 in a short program in the afternoon after a mass. (Bukidnon News)